Today, the United States Supreme Court returned to the fundamental environmental challenge facing our nation and planet when it decided AEP v. Connecticut, a case in which a group of States, joined by the City of New York and private land trusts, brought a lawsuit against some of the largest emitters of the Greenhouse Gases causing the global warming and climate change that is causing harm to our environment and the public health.
First the biggest of the bad news: The court said that the plaintiffs bringing the lawsuit could not, at this time, use federal “common law” to hold the polluters accountable. It is always bad when misdeeds and harm are left unaddressed.
But there is a lot of good news: The Supreme Court emphatically reiterated the obligation of the EPA to take action to deal with Greenhouse Gas emissions reasserting strongly the decision in Massachusetts v. EPA (a case brought by States and environmental groups including CLF). In MA v. EPA the court clearly stated that the plain words of the Clean Air Act require EPA to begin the process of regulating Greenhouse Gas emissions.
In the decision today the Court said:
[The Clean Air] Act itself thus provides a means to seek limits on emissions of carbon dioxide from domestic power plants—the same relief the plaintiffs seek by invoking federal common law. We see no room for a parallel track.
This decision reaffirms the absolute importance of EPA doing its job and following through on the orders it was given by Congress in the Clean Air Act. The time is long past for that task to be brought to completion.